Thursday, September 26, 2013

Amazing how he sees things...

Our president made a speech today to talk up support for his "Signature Legislation" affectionately known as Obamacare.  Now, having already experienced the joy that he promised to bring (higher premiums, less care for that premium and higher co-pays) despite the fact that I already had health insurance and was very happy with it, I can say that I read his words with a bit of a jaundiced eye.  

He made a statement in his speech that showed either monumental lack understanding of the law he signed or that he is a complete moron.  I will not debate it, but I do believe that he gives far too good a speech to be a complete moron.  He states "even those who didn't vote for him are going to enroll."  Well Skippy, it seems that your prediction is correct because your law does not really allow people to decide to not participate.  While I disagree with the supreme court, and I would hope for Congress in the future to legislate so that this type of utter slap in the face of civil liberties doesn't happen again, they did rule that this fiasco is a tax and one cannot opt out of taxes.  And since you made the penalties painfully eye-watering for most, they will have no choice but to participate.  Or be penalized by the IRS, and then go to jail when they can't pay the exorbitant tax penalty that you will never be subject to anyway.  

And then he goes on to downplay the fact that the whole thing is not ready to go on Oct 1 as planned.  He termed them "minor glitches".  An estimated 10 million Latino's will not be able to use the Spanish site for the first few weeks.  Anyone who has dealt with the government knows that a few weeks is a unit of time usually equal to a few months.  Small businesses can't sign up at all.  I guess small glitches are all in the eye of the beholder.  Having see several presentations on this piece of legislation (because I have a responsible employer who wanted to show how this will affect us) I can certifiably say that this is a mess, Mr Obama.  There are no actual cost controls and the insurance companies can charge what they like.  Further, there are no cost controls in place and the health care providers can charge what they like.  You have this grand illusion that more people participating will magically drive the cost down.  Unfortunately for your lovely thought process, we still live in a capitalistic economy and both the insurance companies and the health care industry are for profit.  All you did was use a government hammer to force more people to give them money.  While I do agree that your political opponents are getting desperate and crazy (and likely already were) the reality is that I see no difference between you and them.  The only good I see coming from your administration at this point is that it will end.

The joy of travelling...

Hi guys,

I realize that you are excited about your cloud technologies.  My company has products in that realm as well.  I also realize that it is always good to network with other people who have cool cloud technologies that would compliment your cloud technologies.  In fact, even with my headphones on, I had to listen to you before and during the flight.  However, it would be really great if you could hold your impromptu technology conference on the concourse, not in the middle of the aisle while everyone behind you is still waiting to exit the aircraft to make their connecting flights.  As cool as your cloud technologies are, they won't help me get to my connecting gate any faster while you asshats chat in the middle of the aisle as if you are the only people in the world.



PS:  To American Airlines:  When you have already delayed us over an hour due to our plane being found to be broken at the gate, please finish the inspection on the replacement before loading us on the plane.  Having to sit for another hour on the plane waiting for a mechanic would have been preferable to the packed plane.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Curse you, Larry Correia...

I finally had the spare cash to buy a book.  Now understand, I love books.  I used to make weekly trips to Barnes & Noble to pick up something.  My wife is exasperated with my library, which in the house we recently moved out of covered three of the living room walls and one in the dining room with 6 foot tall shelves.  However, due to financial constraints, I have been limited on my book purchasing for several years.  Oh, yes, and my wife said that she would break my arm if I bought more books.  So I was thrilled when I got a B&N Nook for Christmas several years ago.  Unfortunately, while there are tons of free books on PDF and eBook form, most of what I wanted to read costs money.  Also, the Gutenberg Project is both limited and has what I consider poor quality control.  So even though I have two Nooks now (I got a Nook Touch as a present last year) I have not really gotten any new books.

That changed recently.  I was given a small bonus at work for a job well done and normally I spend these rare opportunities to take my wife out to dinner somewhere nice.  This time I was a little selfish.  I took her out and we got burgers instead of steak.  I then put some money into books for my Nook.  Evaluating the options, I purchased an omnibus edition of the first three Monster Hunter novels by Larry Correia.  Now, I know the man is a gifted writer because I read his blog.  In fact, you will find it linked in the sidebar.  And all the other cool kids listed there raved about his novels.  So I went with the cost effective option and grabbed the three for one book.  Since then I have not slept well because I am having a problem putting the book down.  Having a Nook with a light attached does not help, since I didn't even notice when my wife turned off the living room light and went to bed.  It is a page turner and fully the kind of book I love to read.  When I sit down at about 9 pm to read a few chapters and then realize its 2 am and I have to get up in 4 hours to get ready for work, I know its a damn good book.  So curse you Larry Correia for depriving me of sleep with your excellent writing.  Keep up the good work.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dear Mr. Mardell...

Mark Mardell is the BBC News North American Editor.  As such, one would imagine that, as a professional journalist for an organization that prides itself on journalistic integrity, he would make sure that what he states in his articles are correct facts.  However, reading his article on the BBC News website this afternoon, I see that he has the same bias and lack of concern for facts that is present every time Piers Morgan opens his mouth.

He presents the facts pointing out that Aaron Alexis was already breaking the law when he carried a disassembled shotgun into Washington DC (not to mention the base), but presents them as idiotic statements made by the pro-Second Amendment supporters who lack his wisdom.  Then he trots out the old gun show loophole (that doesn't exist) and states that the firearm incidents involving Mr Alexis were common occurrences brushed off by law enforcement.  Apparently Texas is the worst for this according to our fine British expat.

I was under the impression that the BBC required correct facts in it's reporting, but then again they are media and likely do have an agenda.  Blaming the earlier incidents on the gun culture instead of poor judgement on prosecuting them smacks of ignorance.  It's like blaming the NRA and it's "massive" out of state money for the ousting of two Colorado legislators when the out of state supporters of those legislators spent 10 times as much to support them and lost.  Generally in the US, the 2004 incident would and should have resulted in felony charges and loss of the right to bear arms as a result.  Even in Texas.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The problem with our society...

I have been privy to many a hand wringing session where people wonder "Why are our kids so <disrespectful, violent, dishonest, insert your word here> these days?"

Well, I can show you a perfect example.  No, not the idiot in the news who should have been arrested and charged in 2004, he appaarently lost it after he left home.  I am talking about the three thugs in Florida who beat a classmate that opposed them running a recreational pharmaceutical supply at summer school.  They beat him, broke bones in his hand and robbed him.  I believe that even in the state of Florida, we qualify for felonies at this point.  Do we show these thugs that crime doesn't pay, and in fact should cost dearly?  Mmm, not so much.

First, we waste time trying to find a way to prosecute the 64 year old bus driver because he didn't put himself in between a victim and three assailants and then smear his good name in the press when that fails.  Following that we go for prosecution of the assailants to show them the full extent of the law.  The result?  Probation and community service.  Oh, and they have to say they're sorry.

Really, this is the best that can be done?  And you wonder why kids growing up don't respect the law?  They should be seeing time on a chain gang, not wearing an electronic tracker and working community service.

This is a prime example of why many of us despair for the future of this country.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It seems a little staged...

I was reading an article today about the Egyptian army destroying smuggling tunnels along the Gaza border.  It seems that they take a bad view of extremists from Gaza flowing into the Sinai and causing unrest, culminating with the car bombing of of a security building in Rafah that killed six soldiers.  While there are always shortages of critical supplies in Gaza such as food, medicine and fuel, they never seem to run out of rockets, bombs and bullets.  Amazing.  Still, a significant supply of materials comes through the tunnels since the border crossing only really allowed people with legitimate business across.  Now that is cut off due to biting the hand that feeds.  What I found really interesting was the picture on the slideshow  (slide 22) of protesters at the border to protest the border crossing closure.

While it seems that they are short on food, medicine and fuel, they appear to have ample supplies for printing very clear, large professional signs for the protest. Of course the signs are held up by children for the most photogenic moment to gain sympathy.  But I guess in the retaliatory strikes, Israel has managed to miss all of the local Kinko's locations.  Which appear to still have supplies and power.  Good to know they have their priorities straight in Gaza.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What the media should be concentrating on.

After shouting loudly about the AR15 that now it appears didn't exist, the media is somewhat flailing to find the point that they lost regarding the Naval Yard shooter.  It now appears that he followed Joe Biden's advice and brought a shotgun and used that item to gain more weapons from onsite security.  Now they are somewhat lost since the evil black rifle was only present with law enforcement responding to the site.  I am impressed that the Anti-Gun Lobby has not already been dancing in the blood, but I am willing to bet that recent losses on that battlefront have taught them to tread carefully.  They will be out, have no illusions.

What has been mentioned and will hopefully get more prominence is the fact that this person actually shot out the tires of someone's vehicle in 2004 and is still eligible to purchase firearms.  I'm pretty sure if I shot out someones tires in my jurisdiction, I would have seen jail time and the loss of all of my firearms along with the right to get new ones.  In fact, with that item on my record, I doubt that I would have qualified to join the military as he did after that incident.  With all of the laws in place, how did this happen?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Money well spent... not...

Not shockingly, a California school district has decided to drop the equivalent of a teacher's salary on a firm that will monitor it's students social media accounts for indicators of wrongdoing.  And the company involved is working on an App to allow anonymous reporting of policy violations.  Really, is this the best use of funds during a time of both economic and educational difficulty?  Is this district so flush with cash and successful students that they can spend money on people cruising Facebook?  How about you concern yourself with what is happening on campus and concentrate on improving academic standards and achievement instead of trying to build your own little version of the novel 1984?  Heck, you might even try having your students read the book...

How about a little "Citizen Safety"?

One of the big items I read about (and see on reality TV programming) is an emphasis on "Officer Safety" when police are conducting their day on the job.  And I understand it.  I have friends in the law enforcement profession and I want them all to come home safe after every shift.  However, I also want all of the innocent citizens that they come into contact with to get home safe every day as well.  However, the possibility of things going sideways has caused law enforcement leadership to introduce policies and training that ensure officer safety but severely degrade citizens rights and citizens safety.  Two examples of questionable shootings are a recent one of an unarmed man in his own driveway with his own car being shot multiple times and now an accident victim being shot while apparently running towards police for assistance.  Now, both of these incidents happened at night and rather quickly, so armchair quarterbacking it is easier sometimes, but in both cases less than lethal options were there and not used by all officers.  Then we have (once again) the NYPD dropping bystanders.  However, this time the man was unarmed.  Oh, and they didn't hit him, just two bystanders.

This trend has to be reversed.  I don't know if it is more training, better policies or a combination of both, but the safety of the general population at some point has to come before that of the officers.  And the officers have to be made aware of that at the beginning of their shift.  For the amount of crap I see heaped on people who want to be able to carry a firearm for personal protection, I expect better from the police that are supposed to be the reason that people don't need to carry.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Eminent Domain rides again...

The City of Richmond, just north of Oakland, has decided that they would like to be the opposite of New London, CT.  As some of you may recall, New London went all the way to the supreme court to use eminent domain on an entire neighborhood.  This was to then be handed over to a developer so that a wonderful new and expensive neighborhood could be built for the employees of the Pfitzer facility that had been given huge tax breaks for ten years as an incentive to open shop there.  However, despite winning in court, all plans for redevelopment fell through and nothing was built.  Pfitzer closed up shop and moved out just about the time that the tax breaks expired.  And now the area has been used as a dump for debris from Hurricane Irene.  On the bright side, 44 states now have laws in place to prevent these types of shenanigans from happening.

Richmond is a east bay city that includes a neighborhood dubbed the Iron Triangle.  Comparisons to the Vietnam War area of the same name are due to the drug and criminal activity that goes on there.  During the housing boom times, it was famous for having a three bedroom home on a large lot for sale for Less than $30K (ish).  However, due to crime levels, nobody wanted it.  Now they want to play Robin Hood and use eminent domain to save people from the evil bankers.  In a reverse of what New London did, they want to use eminent domain to seize the loans of the underwater homes in the neighborhoods designated.  The banks will be paid a reduced sum for this seizure.  They will then have the homes put under new loans, more affordable to the "homeowners".  

See, here's the problem.  If we shouldn't be allowing the government (local, state or federal) to use eminent domain to take people homes/land and give it to a private developer (and I agree that this should not happen), then we should not allow said government to use eminent domain to fix the mistakes of private citizens who can't do math.  They all willingly agreed to purchase these homes at those prices.  If they can't do the math or take the time to read the contract, it's not the government's job to save them.  If the loans were deemed to be dishonest, then there are other laws and options to be used.  This is not the solution and it sets a bad precedent if allowed.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Common Courtesy...

Dear Senior Director,

Since your administrative assistant and I responded to your request and arranged for the large meeting room, the presentation equipment, the web meeting with video and the catering, I don't think it is out of line to ask that you show up for your own meeting on time.  Especially since you were seen coming from the onsite gym.  I mean, I realize you only had two weeks to plan for your own meeting, but still better scheduling may need to be evaluated on your part.  And while we do appreciate that you showered before you showed up 10 minutes late to your own multi-national departmental meeting, I think you were a mite inconsiderate to spend another 10 minutes finishing your slide presentation.  Considering that the people in the UK stayed in the office until 9 pm for your meeting and those in Moscow were up at an ungodly hour to attend on a Friday, you may want to think about being late.  And to top it all off by belatedly realizing that your Mac Air has no native ability to use any of the cables or ports to allow it to project was simply brilliant.  Those adapter dongles that we bought for your computer were rightly left in their package at your home office.  Best place for them.

While I view it as my job to support these meetings properly by anticipating your every misstep and providing the technology to work around it at a moments notice, your employees deserve a little more consideration and respect than you showed.



PS:  Thanks for leaving the laptop and presentation mouse in an unattended meeting room after the meeting.  Really, I was just joking when I asked that it be returned.

Same opportunities, different results...

I see on the BBC News site two separate reports regarding economic health in two separate countries located in Europe.  Both were under Axis control in WWII and that is a good starting point for this comparison.  Both have spent the years since following what they believed was the proper economic and governmental philosophies.  However, the results could not be more different.

On one hand, we have Italy.  Damaged in WWII, and on the losing side, Italy had a lot to fix.  Eventually, they built a large economy and then somewhat struggled.  They also built a huge government and red tape factories.  They eventually joined the Euro and allowed their banks to operate with the same impunity that other EU members allowed and later suffered from.

On the other hand, we have Norway.  Occupied during the war, they also had rebuilding to do.  They rebuilt their economy and joined the initial European trade organization, but eventually did not join the EU proper or join the Euro.  They have kept rules in place to control government size, spending and actions.  They also put in place a method for managing their natural resources (specifically offshore oil deposits) so that the profits are saved and invested for future generations.  They now have a surplus fund that approaches if not tops a trillion dollars.

This really strikes me as interesting since the leaders in the EU state constantly that the Euro is the best way to go and the EU is the best way to go.  If the leaders of Norway had successfully joined the EU and the Euro, would the EU have allowed them to pursue the policies that they have?  Many portions of the EU are all about the "social justice" arguments and I just kinda doubt that they would see a trillion dollar piggy bank without figuring some way to raid it.  I see the two stories as showing personal responsibility on a national level.  The country that showed personal responsibility is comfortably examining future options for managing their nations money.  The other is mired in a financial mess and has businesses literally moving out of the country in the middle of the night.  Since the stories are both presented by the BBC, I wonder if the people in Britain will see any correlation and decide to change their national path a bit?  Maybe, maybe not...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Seriously, these are adults?

During my morning coffee break I was cruising the intarwebs to see if Mr Putin had finished collecting the Syrian chemical weapons inventory with his bare hands and no shirt before destroying them in a bonfire while the Spetsnaz roasts marshmallows.  Apparently he has only submitted this plan on paper.  However, three small clicks later I am led to an amazing show of how silly professional baseball has become.  We go to a baseball game in Florida, where the Marlins were hosting the Atlanta Braves.  Late in the game the rookie pitcher, having an amazing game already, clocks his first MLB home run.  This is in front of the home crowd in what will apparently be his last game of the season.  It was a beautiful bomb, a nice long arc into the stands that sends the crowd into a frenzy.  When he hits the ball, he watches it go as he slowly starts towards first tossing the bat after two steps.  He then trots the bases to home plate.

Now, up to this point, I have not seen anything in this series of events that I have not seen many, many times before in televised baseball games.  In fact, it is rather subdued compared to what I have seen the superstars of the baseball world do on clocking one out.  At no point was anything showing to be disrespectful.  However, he apparently insulted the whole visiting team.  The benches clear.


Gentlemen.  You play a game for a living.  You play a game in a sport where the smallest of "injuries" regularly sidelines a player for weeks.  Why yes, I was listening when a player was put on the IR list for a strained pinkie.  In other sports, players play through injuries like fractured and broken bones.  They literally get stitched up and go back out.  Please get some perspective.  You are payed six to seven figures (sometimes 8) to play a game, and not a terribly demanding one compared to other professional sports.  Your pitcher hung one out that got tattooed into the bleachers.  There was every reason to start slowly, since it was obviously gone.  Based on the game up to that point, he should have been waving to the crowd to raise the noise  level after that hit.  Based on his pitching and the score at that point, I think he would have been justified to flip off the opposing pitcher all the way around the bases.  He didn't.  Learn to lose gracefully, because complaining about this "insult" reinforces the opinion that you are a bunch of overpaid whiny children.

The new shiny... Meh...

I have read a number of accounts and seen several videos showing the spiffy new fingerprint reader on the iPhone and I am not terribly impressed.  As noted in a number of reports, this is not a new technology.  I have been dealing with Lenovo and Dell laptops that have fingerprint readers for about 10 years.  However, the general way we have dealt with them is to disable them on all of our issued computers.  Some users have gotten around that and enabled them, much to their own detriment.  We did not feel that the technology was ready for primetime as a security feature in our environment.  Costs to properly integrate it outweighed the benefit when compared to our current security protocols.  Plus, in the end, most of the people complaining that we should use it really wanted it for the ease of use.

When the people who liked the ease of use decided to enable the readers themselves, install the software and begin using the convenience of the finger swipe to access their computer, we in IT were not involved.  What we noticed were two fairly regular occurrences.  First was the fact that password expiration meant that when they had to change the password after 90 days, they had forgotten it.  Which I guess makes the password really secure once 90 days is up, cause now nobody can access the computer or files.  If they were remote, we found that they could not update the password unless they were connected to our network.  Since they could not get to the VPN software due to the method of lockout, they could not do anything other than travel to an actual company office or FedEx us the laptop.  We liked the FedEx option because we could remove the software and disable the hardware.  The laptop was returned with a lovely note (as well as the note being emailed to their boss) advising them that they were not to do that again.  Second was that the fingerprint software tied the fingerprint into the encryption certificates, which meant that our master certificate was no longer any good for decrypting the data when their computer crashed.  This was even better when we found that they had disabled the backup software because they felt it was too much of a drag on the computer when they were working.  I tried not to laugh in their face when this came to light.

So, despite the various pundits telling us that this will usher in a new era of security where passwords are a thing of the past, I really don't think so.  I have not seen anything commercially available that will stand up to the Mythbusters tests.  This item is no different.  In fact, it is likely that just by handling your phone, you are leaving the key on the surface of the device.  A dedicated individual will steal the device and use that to crack the "Password".  If they were dedicated enough to crack an actual password for a computer, they will be dedicated enough to fill in the blanks that the Mythbusters left out of their show for fingerprints.  So no, it will not usher in a new era of security, it will usher in a new era of lazy people who are caught unaware when their data is stolen.  Then again, some idiot thought that it would be a great idea to give temporary contractors access to the most secret documents in our government, so I won't be shocked by the fiascoes that will result in this "New Era".

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Making a statement...

The people of Colorado have spoken, and in my opinion put an exclamation point on it.  They successfully recalled two state representatives that voted for the knee jerk gun laws enacted earlier this year.  Both are now out of a job.  The exclamation point is that one was from a district where the Dems have the majority, and the other (the state senate president) was leaving office next year due to term limits anyway.  When you tell someone to GTFO when they were planning to leave office anyway, that sends a message.  What would really send a message at this point would be for the next election cycle to move more of these politicians out of office and those self same laws to be repealed in the next session.  However, I doubt that will happen.  History has shown that once enacted, legislators are loathe to remove laws, even those deemed wrong by the general population.  It took 13 years to repeal the 18th amendment, and that was hugely unpopular with the masses, in addition to sending crime through the roof.  So I'm not holding my breath on a repeal.

Monday, September 9, 2013

From Russia with love...

As I had hoped, someone (the only one big enough) in the same geographical location has offered an alternative to the US being the world police again.  Russia has put forward a proposal that Syria hand over their chemical weapons to international oversight to prevent their use.  If this moves forward, I believe it is a good step in the right direction for both the people of Syria and the region as a whole.  I have to admit, I think that without President Obama's threat, the Russians would not have moved forward with a proposal.  I also think that they were waiting for the western nations to make threats of force so that they could play peacemaker.  Mr Putin is not a stupid man and I am sure this was weighed and planned.  And in reality, its great because it won't strain the US military or economy.

In other news, the media is still pissed that Zimmerman got off...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Failures in parenting...

So once again we have the media fanning the flames in search of ratings.  CNN has posted this report about a shooting in New Orleans.

A home owner goes to check on a noise in his yard at 2 AM.  This is generally a time when people not working the graveyard shift are in bed.  He finds an intruder in his yard by his car at 2 AM.  According to him, the intruder made a move towards him and he discharged his firearm, because he came prepared for the possibility of it not being a stray cat.  One head wound later, the intruder turns out to be a 14 year old with no business in that yard.  The police do not feel that the story is as the home owner has presented, and have arrested him and charged him with Second degree homicide.  They do not dispute that the intruder was in the yard, that he had no right to be there or that it was 2 AM.

Now we have the local church leaders claiming that because he was an unarmed black youth they can invoke the Zimmerman trial and take to the streets.  And of course they are joined by all those who are floundering for a protest now that we have left Iraq, the Occupy movement has run out of free food and the jury in Florida proved that you don't have to like the guy to find him not guilty.  I expect Al Sharpton to be on the next plane.

I am interested to see this unfold.  I want to see the police to explain to me why the 14 year old was out at 2 AM.  Was he walking home from his closing shift at McDonalds?  (No, and he'd probably be on strike anyway... )  Then, even if you have some justification for him being out at 2 AM, what was he doing behind a locked gate in a yard not owned by him, his family or friends?  Also, I am curious to find out about the eyewitness who happened to be there at 2 AM.  Usually at that time of night, when bad things happen, the only people around are the victims and the criminals.  I expect to hear about the witness being a friend who will vouch for the choirboy now in the hospital.  As for the location of the shell casing, I personally have seen my Walther .22 throw a piece of brass 15 feet, not to mention ricochets off nearby structures sending it in odd directions.  My Jericho with the 9mm barrel will throw them farther.   (No idea what the .41AE barrel would do, I've never been able to afford the ammo.)

At 2 AM, in the dark, the homeowner is not under any obligation to determine the age, race, religion, intentions or armed/unarmed status of an intruder.  This is a perfect example of "Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes."  Had this child's parents properly raised this child, he would not have been found in someone else's locked yard at 2 AM looking down the barrel of a gun.